“Farce is tragedy played at a thousand revolutions per minute.” – John Mortimer
Madness Gives Way To Sanity?
So far, it seems, this year’s tournament has been marked by expected outcomes rather than shocking upsets. Even the upsets we have had haven’t been all that shocking. One could argue the USC win over SMU was a surprise, but beyond that, it’s pretty much been business as usual. Perhaps this means the committee really did do a good job with the seeding this year. On the other hand, it may just be the law of averages catching up with March Madness.
Time For A Change
I’m not one to advocate change for change’s sake, and I am a firm believer in the maxim, “If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it.” While I am generally an enthusiastic fan of college basketball and the yearly tournament, there are a few areas that I believe could use some improvement. To those in positions of power (who no doubt will NEVER read this, but writing it is cathartic for me all the same), I offer the following suggestions for consideration.
- Six Fouls For Disqualification – It is time for the NCAA to align itself with the NBA when it comes to player disqualification. Today’s athletes are bigger, better, stronger, faster. That fact coupled with recent rule changes intended to encourage more offense and freedom of movement really necessitate this move. Two quick fouls in the college game will send a player to the bench for long stretches, and this is not good for the competition or entertainment value. I agree with Dick Vitale on this one. Give the guys one more foul.
- Alternating Possession – This is a bad idea whose time for abandonment is long overdue. Introduced in 1981 ostensibly as a means of speeding up the game, the alternating possession rule has instead become a means by which hustle and excellent defense are rewarded with what amounts to a coin flip. I haven’t done the statistical research, but it seems to me that there aren’t an inordinate number of held balls in a typical college game anyway, and so what is the real reason for keeping this arcane rule around? Why not jump the ball as they do in the NBA? Player safety? Concern over inconsistency with officials’ ability to toss the ball? If bringing back the jump ball is off the table, how about a more creative approach, one that puts the consequences of the held ball more in the hands of the players than in the hands of the dude on the sidelines pushing a button. For example, how about we keep the possession arrow, but whenever there is a held ball, the team who has the arrow in their favor is given a choice. You can have one free throw OR possession of the ball. Whichever option you do not choose goes to the other team. The player who shoots the free throw must be the player involved in the held ball situation. It seems to me an idea like this would at least eliminate the one-sidedness that exists in the current rule. In this scenario, BOTH teams, as is the case with a jump ball, would at least have an opportunity to capitalize on the held ball, either by scoring a point or gaining/retaining possession. What do you think, minions?
- The 1 vs 16 Game – As I said in a recent Tweet, with very few exceptions, the four 1v16 games are an annual farce. Sure, a literal handful of teams have come close, and I keep hearing that SOME DAY a 16 will do the impossible, but given that over the course of 33 years 16 seeds are 0 and 132, perhaps we need to rethink our approach. The 1v16 game essentially serves as a dog-and-pony show for the #1 teams, and an opportunity for the 16s to shout “woo hoo” on selection Sunday and put “appeared in NCAA tournament” on their resume. Clever minion Chris Shelton had a creative idea, suggesting that the 1 play the 8 and the 9 play the 16 in the first round. Yes, I know that messes up the math in some sense, but it would not discombobulate the later rounds, and it would give those opening games at least some chance of being more relevant. Of course, if you’re of the school of thought that the reward for earning a #1 seed is essentially a free pass to the second round, then I say DO that. Punt the 16 seeds, give the #1s a first round bye, and be done with it. Yes, I know. Then you lose the revenue from those four games, and the revenue is why the tournament continues to expand the number of teams in the first place. I’ve even heard talk of expanding the tournament to 128 teams. Believe me, if that day ever comes, it will be the end of Jeff’s March Madness Contest.
Late Session Game Thoughts
- Come On, Coach, You’re Just Saying That – Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski made his best attempt at political correctness and humility during his halftime interview when he talked in generalities about the talent of his opponents from Troy and his team’s need to stay focused if they were to be assured victory. The truth is that Hector the Tamer of Horses himself could not have helped this Troy team from being sacked like the city of ancient lore. While I appreciate Coach K’s class, Troy was completely outmatched in this one.
- Say What? – It’s probably a well-known fact among contest veterans that I have an aversion toward sports cliches. Not only are they worn out and devoid of real meaning, but some simply do not make sense at all. For example, here’s one I heard a few times today. “He is finally getting comfortable in his own skin.” Huh? He was formerly more comfortable in someone else’s skin? I suppose I am being too harsh, and this is simply a metaphor for a person willing to be true to himself rather than trying to be someone else. Still the entire phraseology of this particular cliche just annoys me for some reason.
- When Did Michigan State Become The Avengers? – Anyone who has even loosely followed the B1G (pronounced Big 10, another oddity of college basketball) this season knows that this is probably the weakest Sparty team coach Tom Izzo has had in the last decade. That’s why their 20-point thrashing of the Miami Hurricanes is so surprising. After trailing by double digits early, it is like they all walked into a phone booth and came out with super powers. Never bet against Tom Izzo in March, I always say, but I did not expect such a lopsided victory.
- 13 and 14 go 0’fer – For the first time since 2007, not a single 13 or 14 seed will advance to the round of 32. For those keeping track at home, that means the top four seeds in each region have all advanced for the first time in a decade.
- Another Drought Erased – The South Carolina Gamecocks dispatched Marquette for their first NCAA tournament win since 1973.
- Delaying The Inevitable – Kudos the Northern Kentucky Norse for refusing to quit and keeping the margin of victory for favorite Kentucky under 10 points. Given this was a 15-2 game, that’s fairly impressive.
Best Alias Awards
And now the moment you all have been waiting, pining, lobbying, and texting me for, the 2017 Best Alias Awards. Let’s start with a few that are worthy of a response.
- Cody “Are Llamas Camels or Sheep” Boswell – They are members of the camel family
- Laura “There’s only one Havoc…go VCU!” Connell – Gone. Lost in the first round to St. Mary’s from the Truck Stop League.
- Kim “Do I really have time for this?” Harper – Listen, if I have time, you have time.
- Phil “sevenlittles.net?” Huneck – Not on your life, Phil. Not on your life.
- Nicholas “I can’t believe I look forward to this” Kusiak – I know, right? We’re gluttons for punishment.
- Ryleigh “Not a minion” Lamb – Party pooper.
- Segey “Soccer is better than basketball” Moritz – Not in Indiana, it isn’t.
- Sean “I do not care about rules” Power – You no maka the game, you no maka the rules.
- Fess “Not the Zags Year, Again” Bryson – Bite your tongue, infidel!
- Best T-Shirt Slogan: Ada “Keep calm and guess on…” Lam
- Best Conspiracy Theory: Pete “Obama wiretapped my bracket” Klinker
- Best Movie Quote: Andrea “You’re a daisy if ya do” Bauschek
- Best Commercial Reference: Matt “Don’t get your bracket done, get it WON” Thurber
- Best Biblical Reference: Kain “murdered nobody” Wright
- Best Inside Joke (tie): Bryson “Minion of Wrath” Davis and Nick “No picks No prom 2.0” Carrizales
- Best Trump Reference: Chris “Trump ‘Cards'” Shelton
- Best Hashtag (tie): Alyssa “#NotMyTournament” Doubt and Alan “#NOTMYBRACKET” Thielen
- Best Use Of A Campaign Slogan: David “Make My Bracket Great Again” Bauchspiess
- Jordin “LeBlonde James” Booher
- Scott “Pick Up The Right” Bower
- Jason “When Your Chicken Acts Up, You Need To” Cooper
- Angie “make it or brack-et” Davis
- Amber “Ambre the Giant” Little
- Max “Maxaroni & Cheese” Marietta
- Randy “the Reiffleman” Reiff
- Jordan “my picks don’t look like I’m” Wise
- The Flattery Will Get You Nowhere award goes to the Snyder family for pointing out my connection to Jason Snyder, my college roommate at Rose-Hulman.
- The Nostalgia award goes to Wayne “Been in all of Jeff’s Contests” Murray with an honorable mention to Randy “Ranman (10th Anniversary Winner)” Cowell.
- The Literalist award goes to Adam “The Most Clever” Lamb, because, of course, he provided the most clever alias.
- The I Don’t Totally Don’t Get It award goes to Bob “Do the chickens have large talons?” Pixley.
- And of course, the annual Burma Shave award goes to the Fairchild family who always use the alphabetical listing of their names on the contestant picks page to list some memorable quote or phrase. This year’s offering is a Latin quote from St. Augustine which loosely translates to “Faith is believing what you have not yet seen; faith’s reward is seeing what you believe.” Forgive me if that’s off. My Latin is a little rusty.
And now the top five aliases of the 22nd Annual Jeff’s March Madness Contest…
5. Frank “Uptown Frank” Williams – Cue the Bruno Mars
4. Brad “I blame the Russians for this” Schafer
3. Gary “Someone hacked my bracket!!!” Tucker
2. Toby “This scoring system is a pain in my” Schneckloth
…and the winner of best alias, 2017, is…Sam “Master of Marchial Darts” Woodford, an exquisite pun that I had to think about to appreciate. If you don’t get it, email me, and I’ll explain it to you.
Actual Contest Awards
And now a few awards relating to actual performance in the contest…
- The Upper Hand award goes to Monica Hand who has the best record of all contestants with 30 wins and just 2 losses. Still, due to our unique scoring system, Monica is in 25th place in the standings.
- The Look Out Below! award goes to Bob Pixley who dropped from 5th to 320th by the end of the evening.
- The Rising Star award goes to Brent Bolin who has clawed his way from 791st to 246th.
- The You Gotta Be Kidding Me award goes to the 14 contestants who had Maryland in the Final Four. Really? 14 minions had The Turtle in the Final Four? I’m all for being a homer, but let’s be realistic.
- The Captain Obvious award goes to next-to-last-place contestant Heidi “Haven’t seen a game yet” Johnson.
- The I Was Just Following Orders award goes to last place contestant Pamela “MyBossMadeMeDoIt” Golden. Way to take one for the team, Pamela.
- And finally, the Four Horsemen award goes to the four contestants currently tied for first place: Toby Risner, Megan Risner, Clay McGregor, and Jerod Walker.
One of the consequences of the lack of upsets this year seems to be that the standings are very crowded in the top fourth. In fact, just over ten points separates first place from 200th place, and that means that the contest is far from over. A shocking upset or two in the second round this weekend could really shake up the standings. So stay tuned, minions. We are just getting started.
And with that, I’m taking my sick-but-improving self to bed.
Stepping behind the curtain…
The Wizard of Whiteland